Apr 10 2003
The Robert Chasen Memorial Poetry Reading: John Ashbery

We were reading to ourselves. Sometimes to others.
I was quietly reading the margin
when the doves fell, it was blue
outside. Perhaps in a moment,
he said. The moment never came.
I was reading something else now,
it didnít matter. Other people came and
dropped off their rÈsumÈs. I wasnít being idle,
exactly. Someone wanted to go away
altogether in this preposterous season.
from Chinese Whispers

Professor Ashbery, the Charles P. Stevenson Jr. Professor of Language and Literature at Bard College, is the author of twenty collections, including Girls on the Run (1999), Your Name Here (2000), and the stunning, Chinese Whispers (2002). His Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Award, the first time a book of poetry was so universally acclaimed.

A winner of a McArthur Fellowship, two Guggenheims, the Ruth Lily Prize, and the Legion d'Honneur, Professor Ashbery has been the major transformative voice in contemporary poetry. From his precocious Turandot and Other Poems (1953) to Chinese Whispers, his poems have delighted us in their erudition, improvisation, ellipses, and "anti-referential sensuousness." As Harold Bloom reminds, "Since the death of Wallace Stevens in 1955, we have been in the age of Ashbery."